Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Black Dove, White Raven"

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and the newly released Black Dove, White Raven.

Wein applied the Page 69 Test to Black Dove, White Raven and reported the following:
From page 69:
Momma stared out the window at Beehive Hill and answered patiently, “Orsino is still stationed in Italian Somaliland. It’s not possible for us to be together now that the children are here! They can’t live on an Italian air force base. He bought me the plane, of course, but I don’t owe him anything. We have an agreement.”

“It’s called a marriage, Rhoda.” Grandma sighed a little. “I wish we could stay longer. But I’m so glad we got here—thy real home. I feel better about leaving the children here in Tazma Meda. Addis Ababa wasn’t real. Not the city, not the coronation, not the cloud of men around you like ants at a picnic. I can see thee and the children will be all right here, Rhoda. Even without thy husband.”

If Momma can get along all right without a husband, I guess I can get along all right without a father. I have Momma and I have Emmy. They are enough to make a family.
When I was in the middle of writing Black Dove, White Raven, I attended a writing workshop where participants were asked: “What one word represents the central theme of this book?”

I hadn’t actually thought about this before. After some hair-tearing and pencil-chewing, this is the word I came up with: Family.

Would a reader skimming page 69 of Black Dove, White Raven be inclined to read on? I think that depends on the reader. The moment described here is a pause, a chance for some of the characters to draw breath, and a new life is about to begin for them. There is conflict, but it is emotional, and beneath the surface. There’s no intrigue or action here, though there is a faint suggestion of adventure ahead in the mention of the Italian air force and the private plane. Two of the major settings for the book, the village of Tazma Meda and the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa, are both mentioned. I’m amazed at how much of the book’s backstory is included here, despite the lack of forward movement in terms of plot.

But there’s no doubt that this page absolutely represents the book’s central theme, that of family. The narrator, one of the book’s two teen heroes, is straightforward in his loving statement of his devotion to his adoptive mother and sister. And for that, I think this is an honest window into the heart of this story.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Dark Alchemy"

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. She dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

Bickle applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dark Alchemy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Dark Alchemy is written from the perspective of Cal, a teenage boy in the service of a drug lord, Stroud. Stroud is a pretty odd character, even by weird west standards. As an alchemist, he’s chasing the secret of eternal life. Stroud sent Cal’s friends to spy on a cattle baron who he suspects harbors the Lunaria, the Alchemical Tree of Life. Problem is, they’ve gone missing, and there’s nothing that Cal can do:
Cal bit his tongue. He knew better than to ask the Alchemist questions. If he asked, he got answers he would never forget, answers that would keep him awake at night.
That pretty much sums up the story. Dark Alchemy is a dark fantasy mash-up of western, dark fantasy, and horror. Asking questions always gets the characters into trouble, as the answers, like alchemy, are more terrible than they could have ever imagined.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Bickle's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Outside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"What Has Become of You"

Jan Elizabeth Watson was raised in Maine, where she currently lives, writes, and teaches and which also serves as the backdrop for her novels Asta in the Wings (Tin House Books) and What Has Become of You (Dutton). Her third novel-in-progress is set partly in Maine and partly in Ireland.

Watson applied the Page 69 Test to the paperback edition of What Has Become of You, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Later that day, it took my parents some convincing that it would be okay for me to watch movies with a bunch of guys I’d never met, in the home of a boy I barely knew. “We don’t even know this boy,” my mother said, turning on her prim persona in a flash. “I’d feel better if we met him first.”

“Why would you have to meet him? It isn’t a date. My God, he repulses me.”

“Well, that sounds like a hell of a basis for a friendship. I guess you can go if Les is willing to drive you.”
The above exchange comes from the journal entry of fifteen-year-old Jensen Willard, a sardonic young woman whose journals offer occasional moments of grim levity. This is one of those moments. Actually, this is a pretty good representation of the kind of conversations I had with my own parents when I was fifteen. The overall mood of What Has Become of You is darker than this excerpt would suggest, but I so enjoyed writing in Jensen’s voice so much that I am working with another young, first-person narration for my third novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Jan Elizabeth Watson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Game of Love and Death"

Martha Brockenbrough has worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school teacher, and as editor of She is a devoted grammarian, and founded National Grammar Day and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Game of Love and Death, and reported the following:
This is page 69 of The Game of Love and Death, a novel about two young jazz musicians in Seattle who fall in love without knowing they’re pawns being played in a deadly game by Love and Death themselves.

Henry is the male protagonist. An orphan, he lives with his wealthy friend Ethan. Here, Henry is with Will, one of the residents of Hooverville. Henry is there to report a news story for the local paper, and he’s just discovered an illegal still on the premises.
Will returned and registered Henry’s stricken look. “A dozen gallons a day pays for a lot of bread and meat. Those soup kitchens? Dinner only and not much of it. Without this, these men would starve.” He paused. “It’d be better if they drank less and sold more. But I’d challenge any man to live here and not want to take the edge off a bit. What we want is a chance, not charity. So you’ll keep that part out of your story, right?”

Henry considered this, and thought about all the alcohol that was consumed at the Domino, and even the glasses of wine and tumblers of Scotch at Ethan’s house. What made this so very different, aside from the matter of taxes?

Before he’d worked out his opinion, Ethan and James returned.

“I’m glad to see you’ve shown our guest the church,” James said. “We do like a spiritual moment now and again in Hooverville.” He turned to Ethan, extending his hand. “I’ll see you again next week?”

Henry expected Ethan to decline. They had all the information they needed, and Ethan was never the sort to come to a place like this when he didn’t have to. But Ethan tucked his notebook into his shirt pocket and said, “Next week. See you then.” His voice was nonchalant, and Henry knew him well enough to know that meant he was anything but.

Inside the car, Ethan shut Henry down before he had a chance to say what he’d seen. “We’re not writing about the booze. James told me all about that. I’m interested in something different. It’s hard to explain. And do me a favor,” he said, casting Henry a side-long glance. “Don’t tell my father.”

Henry glanced at Ethan, curious about the look in his eyes. It wasn’t one he’d seen before. But he didn’t question it, he felt so relieved.

“I won’t say a word.”
This was a bit of a tricky scene to write. Seattle’s Hooverville was the largest homeless encampment of its kind in the nation, so there were those details to attend to. And I was also introducing a key character here (which I won’t reveal, lest I spoil things). But it was an important one. Henry, whose father’s death left him an orphan, is one bad decision away from living someplace like Hooverville. If he toes the line that’s been drawn for him, his future is assured. So it was important to show the thing he fears without making everything seem melodramatic.

To research this scene, I looked at photographs and read a variety of things, including a graduate student’s master’s thesis on the encampment. The language in it was, in a word, swell. I like to imagine that student would be very pleased to see his work live on in a novel nearly a century later.
Visit Martha Brockenbrough's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Dismantling"

Brian DeLeeuw is a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. His first novel, In This Way I Was Saved, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009 and long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, with editions published in the U.K., Germany, and France.

DeLeeuw applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Dismantling, and reported the following:
The Dismantling is a novel about Simon Worth, a young man who drops out of medical school and becomes an organ broker, a fixer who matches desperate buyers with failing kidneys and livers to sellers willing to part with an organ for a price. Simon is haunted by memories of his younger sister, Amelia, who died seven years ago in an accident for which he feels largely responsible. On page sixty-nine, Simon remembers a trip he took to Central America during the year between his high school graduation and his college enrollment. Near the end of this trip, he was struck with a severe fever, during which he experienced surreal visions of his dead sister:
…He closed his eyes and sank back down into the mattress, and then, as though a screen had been switched on, the clearest image of Amelia appeared behind his eyelids. She stood on one of the rock groynes that jutted out from the Rockaway beach into the ocean, wearing a purple windbreaker, her hair batted across her face by the wind. He was aware that he was standing on the beach, but the idea of his body seemed beside the point. The level of detail—glistening, granular—was beyond that of memories, beyond waking sight. He saw the stippled surface of the ocean. He could count each rock of the groyne, each container ship studded across the horizon. His attention did not have to be parceled out but could instead meet the entire breadth and depth of the scene at once. Amelia stood at the tip of the groyne, the ocean’s spray whipping across her legs. She looked back at him. Her face was many ages at once. She was a little girl; she was a teenager; she was the young woman she’d never become. Her face did not flash from one age to the next but rather accommodated all the ages, in the same space, at once. When she smiled, it was many smiles and also one.

Simon opened his eyes, and this vision of his sister remained so true, so perfect, that he was sure for a moment Amelia was there in the room with him. Or rather, that the dim hotel room was itself unreal, an illusion, and the beach was what was real, the beach and the ocean and Amelia, and he was the visitor, the apparition. As though he had died and Amelia were still alive. He struggled to sit up in bed, the force of the vision and the hot weight of sickness grinding down on his body. The fever broke a few hours later. The next day he used the last of his money to buy a plane ticket home.
Although most of the novel takes place in Simon’s present day (the fall and early winter of 2008), these episodes from his past are crucial to understanding his guilt over Amelia’s death and his shame at how he treated his sister before she died. It is this guilt and shame that cause the breakdown that forces him to leave medical school, and it is this guilt and shame that he struggles to atone for throughout the novel. In this way, page sixty-nine is perhaps not representative of the narrative of the book, but it is related to one of the novel’s central questions: what is the nature of atonement? Simon failed to save his sister, so he fights now to save the lives of others. Is there some sort of cosmic ledger where his actions will all balance out, or is he now indulging in a form of narcissism, acting more for his own (psychological) benefit than for that of the people he’s trying to help? And does the motivation matter if the results are the same?
Visit Brian DeLeeuw's website.

The Page 69 Test: In This Way I Was Saved.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Sophomore Year is Greek to Me"

Meredith Zeitlin has written two books for young people (so far) and lots of articles for Ladygunn Magazine. She’s also a voiceover artist who can be heard on commercials, cartoons, and TV shows.

Zeitlin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Sophomore Year Is Greek to Me, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Sophomore Year is Greek to Me, Zona asks her dad to explain why Greece's economy is in such distress, which he does, broadly. I actually think this page does encapsulate a lot of the biggest elements of the book. First of all, Zona's close relationship with her dad is very significant, both to Zona's character development and the story as a whole. The idea of family - and what makes a family - is a central theme in this novel. Greece itself is an important character in the book; Zona grew up totally disconnected from the country her mother came from, and her journey is about discovering Greece the place as well as her personal Greek roots. Finally, the reason the Lowells move to Greece in the first place is so Zona's dad can write an article about the Greek economy (the very article he is researching on page 69!) and Zona's aspiration to also become a professional journalist is a major plot point. Greece, family, writing... this page has it all!
Visit Meredith Zeitlin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"The Listener"

Rachel Basch is the author of The Passion of Reverend Nash (named one of the five best novels of 2003 by The Christian Science Monitor), Degrees of Love, and The Listener, out now from Pegasus Books.

Basch applied the Page 69 Test to The Listener and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Listener happens to be the final page of a chapter. Less than half the page is filled with text. Both the white space and the words are fairly representative of the overall book. Malcolm Dowd, one of the main characters in the novel, is a clinical psychologist, so there is both a lot of talking surrounded by requisite silence in many of the scenes. Even though page 69 is short on words, two of the novel’s central subjects are present— identity and love, specifically parental love.

This page concludes a scene between Malcolm and his younger daughter, Leah, who has suddenly come home for the weekend from college. Leah has been pumping Malcolm for information she feels he’s been withholding from her and her sister about their mother, who died in a car accident when Leah was only 6. Leah tries to explain to her father that she might better understand herself if she had a fuller, more mature sense of who her mother really was. Near the end of the scene, Malcolm, from whose perspective the chapter is narrated, inwardly acknowledges that “he’d have to tell the girls everything, had planned all along to do so once he’d prepared them, given them all he could. Just as they were about to surpass him, when they were running at full speed, he’d hand off the rest of the information. He didn’t want to be forced to tell the thing before then.”

Page 69 ends with Leah speaking “‘Mom dying is both the worst thing in the world and as familiar to me… as you are.’” Malcolm does not respond with words. Rather, he walks over to where his daughter is seated: “He bent slightly, closed his eyes, and pressed his lips to the crown of her head, just as he had done the very first time he saw her.”
Visit Rachel Basch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"The Russian Bride"

Ed Kovacs is the author of the critically-acclaimed Cliff St. James mystery/crime series published by St. Martin’s Press. Kovacs has studied martial arts, holds many weapons-related licenses, certifications and permits, and is a certified medical First Responder. Using various pen names, he has worked professionally around the world as a screenwriter, journalist, and media consultant. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, American Legion Post 299, the International Thriller Writers association, and Mystery Writers of America.

Kovacs applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Russian Bride, and reported the following:
The only copy of The Russian Bride that I have on this deployment to Eastern Europe is an ARC, Advanced Reading Copy. So I don't know if my page 69 will match up with page 69 in the hardback edition or e-book, but here goes.

The first half of the page completes the introductory description of my female lead, Yulana Petkova, a bona fide exotic-looking femme fatale. Page 69 tells us we're in Moscow, and gives a bit more than just a physical description of Yulana:
And like with many Russian women, her demeanor was tempered by a tough undercurrent. It was like an electrified third rail running along the tracks that was best left untouched. Was it the stereotype of the morose, depressed Russian showing itself? Or was her face betraying the suggestion that she didn’t want to be here any more than Bennings did? Or was her dark expression simply the result of her life experience? Of heartbreak, betrayal, and hard work and a longing for escape to something, anything better than whatever it was that held her in its clutches. Maybe for Yulana, it was a little bit of all of the above; she looked as though she could literally feel her inner hard edge, as naturally as she could feel a pebble in her shoe.
The second half of the page switches to Yulana's POV, and we learn from her inner dialogue that she's no push-over, and doesn't think too highly of the book's hero, Kit Bennings, whom she's just met. But then we learn she's about to be married to Bennings, and that Yulana is in some kind of jam.

The last paragraph provides some nice foreshadowing:
“Congratulations. You are now married,” said the clerk in Russian. To Yulana, the clerk's tone sounded like he had just pronounced a death sentence. And maybe he had.
So my heroine has just married a total stranger, an act that might result in her death. Sounds to me like page 69 has delivered the goods for a reader to keep reading this fast-paced espionage thriller.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Kovacs's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Cry Wolf"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their latest novel, Cry Wolf, and reported the following:
Cry Wolf is a hard-boiled thriller written at break-neck pace of political corruption and organised, very violent crime,” Mike Ripley generously noted on his Getting Away With Murder blog when the book appeared in England a few months ago.

As we read page 69, a couple of violent mafia slayings already under our belts, we are in the company of the cocky Hillary Clinton-type female president of an unnamed province in central Italy. She is about to meet a police officer who will change her life. It isn’t that Donatella Pignatti – known to her underlings as the Queen – has led an innocent life: she is as corrupt and unscrupulous as every other political and social climber in the book, though no rival to the ruthless members of the ’ndrangheta clan (the mafia from Calabria in the south of Italy) who are building their criminal empire on her terrain.

The Queen is waiting anxiously for the arrival of a man that the reader has met earlier, General Arturo Corsini, ambitious commander of the national carabinieri special ops squad. Corsini intends to propose a deal that the Queen cannot refuse, a strategy which will entangle the lives of all the main characters in the novel, and cost far more than most of them have bargained for. Unaware of what is in store for her, and weighed down by her own guilty secrets, the Queen tries to guess on Page 69 what this media-famous policeman wants from her. She’s certain that he wants something. Everyone wants more than they’ve already got, no matter how successful they are. As she confides to her male secretary, Paolo Gualducci, the night before she had dreamt of receiving a string of pearls. “Wow! A gift’s a good sign,” Paolo says to encourage her, but the superstitious Queen sees things differently. “Pearls mean tears,” she snaps back.

So, what will General Corsini bring her, riches or woe?

You have to read the book to find out, of course, but we can promise you lots of jolts and violent surprises on the way.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Visible Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Unholy Awakening.

My Book, The Movie: Michael Gregorio's Hanno Stiffeniis novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Whispering Shadows"

Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, his first novel, was an international bestseller. He lives in Berlin with his family.

Sendker applied the Page 69 Test to new novel, Whispering Shadows, and reported the following:
Of course page 69 is not representative of Whispering Shadows. I think only very few pages or paragraphs of a book can be.

This page only hints at one conflict in the book. There is also a murder mystery involved: a dead young American businessman is killed in China, and Paul Leibovitz is trying to help his parents to sort things out. (The alleged killer has an alibi.) He does not want to get involved and his girlfriend Christine asks him not to because she is scared of China, or the Chinese authorities to be precise.As a young girl she fled from China to Hong Kong with her mother because her father was killed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Since then she does not trust China anymore. Paul promises to stay out of the investigation but wants to help at the same time….
Visit Jan-Philipp Sendker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Someone Is Watching"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, Shadow Creek, and other acclaimed novels.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest thriller, Someone Is Watching, and reported the following:
I think this page is very indicative of what's inside the rest of the book, and should also should tweak anyone's interest in continuing. It's representative of both the style and content of the story and definitely gives you a glimpse into what Bailey is going through. Someone Is Watching is the story of a young female private investigator who is attacked while doing surveillance and retreats to her glass high-rise, afraid to venture outside, and spying on her neighbours through her binoculars, gradually becoming aware that someone is also watching her. Page 69 addresses her growing paranoia as she deals with having the locks to her condo changed. It begins with Bailey's admission to the locksmith that her niece was able to open the previous lock in about two seconds and ends with the chilling admonition to "Enjoy your new locks."
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow Creek.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Creek. 

Writers Read: Joy Fielding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Anywhere but Paradise"

Born in Hawaii, author Anne Bustard is still a beach girl at heart. If she could, she would walk by the ocean every day, wear flip-flops, and eat nothing but fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and chocolate.

She is the author of non-fiction works for young readers including the award-winning Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly.

Bustard applied the Page 69 Test to her debut middle grade historical novel, Anywhere But Paradise, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Later, in math, we tackle word problems. But I already have plenty of my own:

Likelike is pronounced “leakay-leakay,” not “likelike.”

Hilo is “hee-low,” not “high-low.”

Kaneohe is “kah-nay-oh-hay.”

Pau is “pow,” not “pa-you.”

Aina is “eye-na,” not “a-in-ah.”

Kalanianaole is a blur of letters and sounds.

And I still can’t figure humuhumunukunukuapaa.
Baffled by local customs, targeted by a school bully and worried about her quarantined cat, seventh grader Peggy Sue Bennett wants to return to Texas only days after her arrival in Hawaii in 1960. But friendship, the beauty of the islands and more, ultimately change her heart and mind.

On Page 69, Peggy Sue is flummoxed by the pronunciation of Hawaiian words. Sprinkled in conversations, ubiquitous on street signs and towns, as well as Native Hawaiian names, Peggy Sue cannot escape them. The scene on this page shows how frustration is Peggy Sue’s middle name.

For now.
Visit Anne Bustard's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Behind Closed Doors"

Elizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner, Dark Tide, Human Remains, and Under a Silent Moon, the first installment of the Briarstone crime series.

Haynes applied the Page 69 Test to Behind Closed Doors, the second novel in the Briarstone series, and reported the following:
I’m pleased to see that page 69 of Behind Closed Doors contains two intelligence reports, police source documents which are sprinkled through the book like – I hope – seasoning.

Carl McVey – a local businessman – has been found dead, the apparent victim of a robbery. DCI Lou Smith’s team are now gathering intelligence about his life to look for possible motives for his murder:
5x5x5 Intelligence Report

Date: 1 October 2013
Officer: PC 9921 EVANS
Subject: Op Trapeze – murder of Carl McVEY DOB 29/09/1970
Grading: B / 2 / 4

Following the death of Carl McVEY (Op Trapeze), the McDONNELL brothers are not happy. They believe the murder was due to McVEY falling out with an associate over a drugs debt and they are looking for someone to blame.

(Research shows: Lewis McDONNELL DOB 21/10/1953; Harry McDONNELL DOB 06/07/1956)

Date: 1 October 2013
Officer: PC 9921 EVANS
Subject: Op Trapeze – murder of Carl McVEY DOB 29/09/1970
Grading: B / 2 / 4

Carl McVEY was not thought to be a drug-user himself. He was very careful to keep the dealers away from his licensed premises as he wanted to “keep his nose clean.”
The purpose of the reports – as well as lending a note of authenticity – is to allow the reader to be as much a part of the case as the investigators are. We know just from these two reports that McVey is probably not the squeaky-clean businessman he pretended to be, that he is mixed up in organised crime. But the reports raise further questions – was his death really to do with a drugs debt? If so, who really was to blame?

When I worked for the police I often thought how it would be possible to produce an entire fictional narrative made up of these and other documents – witness statements, forensic reports, interview transcripts, for example. Part of my job as an analyst was to create sense out of this paperwork, to work out where the gaps were, to consider what might have happened while the police officers gathered evidence which would refute or support my hypothesis. As the mountain of papers grew, the evidential gaps were filled in and the nature of the events surrounding the crime became clearer until the point at which an arrest could be made, and the offender brought to justice. Some gaps would inevitably remain, but the aim was to provide sufficient evidence to enable a jury to convict.

In fiction it’s much easier – and more advisable, if you want to satisfy your readers – to tie up all the loose ends and make sure everything’s explained. After all, even if Lou and her team don’t know what really happened, thankfully I do.

Real life is, unfortunately, rarely so straightforward.
Visit the official Elizabeth Haynes website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth Haynes & Bea.

The Page 69 Test: Under a Silent Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"All the Rage"

Courtney Summers is the author of young adult novels including Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are, and Cracked Up to Be. She lives and writes in Canada, where she divides her time between a piano, a camera, and a word-processing program when she’s not planning for the impending zombie apocalypse.

Summers applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, All the Rage, and reported the following:
Page 69:
I follow Todd to the New Yorker, a mess. He makes me go around the house for the hose, and we start there, giving it a rinse. We could probably stop there if we wanted—looks good enough to anyone passing by—but Todd wants to prove he can make it gleam, so we keep going, working up a sweat.

“Wake Lake this Friday, huh?” he asks after a while and now I know Wake Lake is this Friday.

“Andrew was talking about it. Figured it’d be soon.”

“You ever go?” I ask. “When it was your turn?”

“I did.” He squeezes some soapy water over the windshield. “You going?”

“Not really my scene.”

“Mine, either. I was fucked up on painkillers before I got there. The only thing I remember is watching your mom and dad make out through the bonfire.”

“That’s sad, Todd.”

“Yep. But I was no good to anyone back then.” He wipes his forehead with the back of his arm. “Paul—it was better it was him, then.”

“Better it’s you now,” I say.

Todd smiles crookedly. “Thanks, kid.”
All the Rage is an examination of the consequences of rape culture. It was a difficult book to write and I've heard it's a difficult book to read. It's about a girl names Romy, who has been sexually assaulted by the local sheriff's son. When she speaks out about it, no one believes her. Romy has few safe spaces in the wake of this, but Page 69 reflects one of them. Here, she's spending time with her mother's boyfriend, Todd, who supports and believes her.
Visit Courtney Summers's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cracked Up to Be.

The Page 69 Test: Some Girls Are.

The Page 69 Test: This Is Not a Test.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Oh! You Pretty Things"

Shanna Mahin is a middle-aged, high school dropout with a fierce desire to overcome what her 9th-grade English teacher predicted would be a lifetime of wasted potential. She mourns his passing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the missed opportunity to point out that she has finally transcended a lifetime of shitty jobs—including dog walker (which was actually kind of great), cook, telemarketer, celebrity personal assistant, theme restaurant waitress, and failed drug dealer, all of which she feels comfortable saying, because the statute of limitations has got to be up by now—to become a bona fide writer. Yep. For money and everything.

Recent fellowships and residencies include the MacDowell Colony, the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, PEN Center USA Emerging Voices, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Writers at Work, and the Eda Kriseova Creative Nonfiction Fellowship at the Prague Summer Program, among others.

Mahin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Oh! You Pretty Things, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I’m lying in bed on Saturday watching The Real Housewives of Orange County, slightly hungover from the bottle of Valpolicella I plowed through the night before, when I feel a reality-TV shame spiral coming on. I mute the TV and call Scout, hoping to ward it off.

She answers on the second ring. “What are you doing?”

“Reading back issues of The New Yorker and giving myself a pedicure.”

“No, seriously.”

“Googling ex-boyfriends and drinking jasmine tea,” I say. “Writing a condolence note to Lisa Rinna about her lips.”

“Wow,” Scout says. “And you going time to call me?”

“I’m about to cross over to the dark side of the moon.”

“I have no idea what that means,” she says. “And I can’t wait for you to tell me. But first, let’s talk about my birthday party.”

Well, shit. I can recite the phone numbers of every landline of all thirteen apartments Donna lived in when I was a kid, and I can’t remember my friend’s birthday? I suck.
This page is a low point for Jess, my protagonist, but it’s pretty in keeping with the voice throughout the book. She’s about to go on a wild ride that will place her smack in the middle of the celebrity culture she yearns for, but at what cost?
Visit Shanna Mahin's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Shanna Mahin & Riley.

Writers Read: Shanna Mahin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2015

"The Masque of a Murderer"

Susanna Calkins, an historian and educator, is the author of three historical mysteries set in seventeenth-century London. Her books have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Bruce Alexander Historical mystery award. She applied the Page 69 Test to The Masque of a Murderer, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Your husband seems to have been a very generous man,” Lucy said, indicating her hastily written script. “Devoted to helping others.”

“Oh, how the Light of God flowed through him!” Joan said.

The woman in white began to sway and croon softly again, and Lucy could make no sense of her words.

“She is Ahivah,” Deborah whispered. “My aunt. She likens herself to the Old Testament prophet, the one who warned Jeroboam that his lost kingdom would soon be restored. She foretold the return of King Charles seven years ago. The king called her his ‘Woman in White.’ That is why she still wears white today. Hoping he will recall her and her ‘strange prophecy.’”

Was there a hint of scorn in Deborah’s voice? Lucy noticed the other Quakers were starting to frown, although Ahivah paid her no attention.

“Hush, child,” Joan said, a warning in her voice.
In The Masque of a Murderer, Lucy Campion, printer’s apprentice, has been asked to record the last dying words of a man who was run over by a cart the day before. The man is a Quaker, part of one of the many dissenting sects that emerged in mid-17th century England. It was a common practice to have such dying testimonies to be cheaply printed in order to inspire others.

Before he dies, however, the man tells Lucy that someone had deliberately pushed him in front of that cart, and that he suspected his murderer was someone close to his family, maybe a member of his own community.

On Page 69, Lucy has returned to the Quakers, claiming that she needs more details to flesh out the man’s story. But secretly she is trying to gather information about who might have wanted to kill him. Some of the tensions among the Quakers can be seen in this passage, as well as some of the larger themes of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Susanna Calkins's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: A Murder at Rosamund's Gate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Black Scorpion"

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Black Scorpion, and reported the following:
From page 69:
and stood back up. The floor seemed to wobble beneath her, but she clung to her balance and stiffened her spine.

“You see what I mean?” the captain continued. “Run now, pirate, and you just may live another week. You picked the absolute worst ship on the sea to hijack.”

Raven jammed him up against the wall, pistol pressed against his forehead. “I’m going to kill you.”

Emotionless, Marmara glanced up at the barrel. “That would change nothing. You think I have a choice? I don’t do what they say, they kill my family.”

“What who says?”

“I answer that, my family dies too. So, pirate, make my day and pull the trigger.”

Carson City, Nevada

“And do you consider staging exhibition fights against mixed martial arts champions proper behavior for a Las Vegas casino owner?” Kern resumed, after clearing his throat.

“Durado Segura took exception to being asked to turn his title into what he perceived to be a joke. It was supposed to be a simple event carried out for charity, but Mr. Segura overreacted. Perhaps you should ask the two women trapped in the cage whether my intervention was warranted or not. And, if you don’t mind me asking, Mr. Chairman, what does such a thing have to do with my gaming license in the state of Nevada?”

Kern leaned forward, as if provided with the opening he’d been waiting for. “Everything, Mr. Tiranno, it has everything to do with that, since it indicates you’re no stranger to violence, does it not, sir?”
Are you hooked yet? Wow, I am and I wrote the damn book, so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the point and, also, why I love the nature of this post because every page needs to hook the reader: like page 69 above, make him or her want to know what happened before and what’s going to happen next. A reader standing in a bookstore and skimming to any page should be immediately grabbed. Indeed, the page 69 test applies to each and every page of Black Scorpion.

Easier said than done, of course, but how exactly do I do it? Two words: conflict and suspense. Every single scene (and thus page) is defined by conflict, no exceptions. If a scene lacks conflict, it either needs to be rewritten or deleted. That’s especially true for thrillers like Black Scorpion which rely on pace more than anything. My absolute, number one goal when I write a book is to make it impossible for you to put it down. Not at the end of a page or even a chapter. End every scene with a cliffhanger and begin every scene with a hook.

Page 69 above illustrates both those points while being driven by conflict, in the first scene between Raven and Marmara and in the second between Michael Tiranno (the book’s hero) and Robert Kern. But what was it Raven saw? And what did Michael Tiranno do that led to this hearing before the Nevada Gaming Control Board? To answer those questions, you have to read back and forward.

See, the Page 69 test closely resembles the John D. McDonald test. It was McDonald, creator of the brilliant Travis Magee books, who famously defined story as, “Stuff happens to people you care about.” Well, the John D. McDonald test in my mind postulates that you should have a sense of story on every page. A natural sequence of events leading organically from one to the next, making you wonder above all else what’s going to happen when you flip the page, as from 69 to 70.

So what do you think, did I pass?
Visit Jon Land's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Losing Faith"

Adam Mitzner's books include A Case of Redemption and A Conflict of Interest.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Losing Faith, and reported the following:
Page 69 is an important page in Losing Faith. It’s there we learn that the book’s protagonist, Aaron Littman, views Samuel Rosenthal as a father figure, and Rosenthal views his mentee as a surrogate son. We also learn that Rosenthal has long known Aaron’s secret.

My favorite passage from that page is when Sam Rosenthal references The Godfather.
“You know that line from The Godfather?” Rosenthal says. “When Vito Corleone tells the Turk that he spoils his children by allowing them to speak when they should listen? Well, I think I’m guilty of that same thing, because I let you off the hook to easily before. But now I’ve given you some time to handle it on your own so you preserve my – what did you call it? Plausible deniability? But that didn’t seem to work out too well for you, and so it’s time for you to tell me exactly what the hell went on between you and Judge Nichols, and how much of it Nicolai Garkov knows.”
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Conflict of Interest.

My Book, The Movie: A Conflict of Interest.

The Page 69 Test: A Case of Redemption.

My Book, The Movie: A Case of Redemption.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Pretty Ugly"

Kirker Butler has worked as a lifeguard, a country music DJ, a Tommy Hilfiger Jeans specialist, a medical supply deliveryman, a Christian music DJ, a bartender, a precious jewelry clerk, a prop PA, a telemarketer for a comedy club, a wedding DJ, a brewery waiter, a videotape editor, an entertainment news producer, an actor, a bouncer at a nightclub (one night), a host at a different nightclub, a singing telegram guy, a receptionist at Neiman Marcus, and the set decorator for N’SYNC’s first “I Want You Back” video.

Today, Butler is a two-time Emmy nominated writer and producer who has written for Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, The Neighbors, and Galavant. His graphic novel, Blue Agave and Worm was published in 2010. Additionally, Butler has written for The Academy Awards, E! News Daily, and the WB series What I Like About You.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Pretty Ugly, and reported the following:
This page is actually a perfect representation of the book. It starts in flashback, wrapping up the story of how our main characters (Miranda and Ray) met, then succinctly shows where they are now in their marriage, addresses Ray’s drug hobby, and introduces a new female character that launches Ray’s story for the rest of the book. It’s a pretty damn good page, if I do say so myself.
Visit Kirker Butler's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"A Scourge of Vipers"

Bruce DeSilva is a former journalist whose Edgar Award-winning hard-boiled crime novels chronicle the adventures of Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for the dying Providence Dispatch.

DeSilva applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, A Scourge of Vipers, and reported the following:
As page 69 begins, Mulligan is drinking at a bucket-of-blood Providence bar with his old friend, Rhode Island Governor Fiona McNerney, a former religious sister nicknamed Attila the Nun because of her take-no-prisoners approach to politics. Mulligan is complaining about his boss, who has ordered him to try out for the local semi-pro basketball team as a publicity stunt for the newspaper.
“He wants you to do what?” Attila the Nun asked.

“You heard me right the first time.”

We were drinking at a table in Hopes while the governor’s limo, a state trooper at the wheel, lurked just outside the door.

“Can’t you talk him out of it?’

“I tried, but he’s got a whim of iron.”

“This is crazy, Mulligan. You could kill yourself trying to keep up with twenty-year-olds.”

“Who says I’m going to try to keep up?”

“Are you in shape?”

“Do I look in shape?”

She thunked her bottle of Bud on the cracked Formica table and looked me up and down, then glanced at the TV over the scarred mahogany bar, where the Celtics were getting run over by the Clippers.

“Not compared to those guys.”

“It’s not like I’ll be going up against Blake Griffin,” I said. “My wind is still pretty good, and I can still fill it up from the three-point line.”

“You’ll have to kick the cigars for a while.”

“Aw, fuck.”

“What about your knee?”

“Hasn’t bothered me much since the surgery.”

“Sounds like you’re warming to the idea.”

“I hate it,” I said. “It’s a stupid prank to gin up circulation, but at least it will get me out of the office for a while.”

I flagged down Annie, the leggy Rhode Island School of Design teaching assistant who moonlighted as a barmaid, and ordered another round.

“Is this why you wanted to get together tonight?” Fiona asked. “To see if I could talk you out of a heart attack?”

“No. There’s something else.” I slid my cell out of my pocket and called up the photo. “Ever seen this guy?”
The passage is untypical of the novel, a quiet moment about a sub-plot in a book that explores sports gambling and the corrupting influence of big money on politics. The novel is peopled with mobbed-up bag men, bookies, gamblers, street thugs, bent cops, and crooked politicians. And the story is rife with payoffs, assaults, theft, murders, a fatal plan crash, political intrigue, and plenty of suspense.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

The Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk.

My Book, The Movie: Providence Rag.

The Page 69 Test: Providence Rag.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Girl Underwater"

Claire Kells was born outside Philadelphia and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco since graduating from Princeton University in 2005. An English major, she didn’t start writing fiction until her first year of medical school. Now a second-year resident, she spends her free time writing stories about love, loss, and adventure.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Girl Underwater, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“For everywhere.” Then, like he’s embarrassed to admit this: “It’s one of my hobbies.”

“Well, that’s…nice.” It’s the most personal thing he’s shared since we crashed. Which is ironic, in a way, because weather is the talk of strangers.

“It’s a little nerdy.”

“I mean, sure. A little.”

His smile loosens the tangle of nerves in my stomach. “Anyway, I’m guessing we’re somewhere between Denver and Salt Lake City. The flight path is always more or less the same from San Fran to Boston.”

“So…near Vail, maybe?”

“Maybe,” he says.

“What did the report say?”

He looks up at the sky. “Snow later today.”

“Snow?” The word creeps past my lips.

“A foot in Salt Lake.” He pauses. “Probably more up here.”

I crane my neck and search the skies for what feels like the thousandth time. The occasional plane cruising some twenty thousand feet above us doesn’t reassure me at all; it just makes me feel smaller, like a tiny speck on a woodsy-green canvas. Even with the NTSB’s technology and black boxes and GPS, searching the Rockies for survivors before a big storm hits puts other people at risk—especially if the powers that be assume no one made it out alive.

Colin abandons the cords and kneels in front of me. “They’ll find us, Avery.”

His eyes tell such grievous truths, which weigh on me more than anything—more than the altitude, or the weather, or the fact that three boys are depending on us. Because once someone decides we’re dead, it’s all for nothing. We won’t make it out of here.
This is a pretty pivotal scene, to be honest. Avery’s initial reaction to their current situation is relief—they survived the crash, and the sinking plane, and a frigid swim to shore. She thinks the hard part’s over, and now they just have to wait for the rescue team to swoop in.

Except that doesn’t happen, and in this conversation with Colin, she’s starting to realize that they may not be rescued right away. In fact, they could die from a number of things—exposure, hypothermia, starvation. This scene really heightens the stakes in that respect.

The other aspect of this scene that makes it important is the brief insight into Avery’s relationship with Colin. Their conversation here is a little stilted, and Colin hesitates to reveal any personal details about himself. The reasons for this will be explored later, but at this point, Colin doesn’t say much. He and Avery are both trying to navigate a difficult situation while also, in some small way, making an effort to get to know each other.

I do think this scene is representative of the book as a whole. There’s angst, and unanswered questions, and the threat of bad things to come. All of those things continue to ramp up from here.
Visit Claire Kells's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Innocent Damage"

Bay Area resident Robert K. Lewis has been a painter, printmaker, and a produced screenwriter.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Innocent Damage, his third novel featuring ex-cop and recovering junkie Mark Mallen, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Hey, was wonderin’, you know? I got ten bucks,” Lucas said.

“You’re going to break the bank, buying like that,” Viv replied and took another drink, “Or maybe have the FBI down on your ass.”

“Yeah, but I’m working on something that will net me a lot fucking more. You know that I’ll come right here, too.”

“Uh huh.”

He pulled out his dough. Put it on the bar. “What will that get me?”

Viv sighed. “Just because I like you, right? I’ll give you some bud I picked up yesterday. I’ll even do 1980s prices, since it came from some asshead’s back yard.” She reached under her dirty skirt. Pulled out a small baggy. He hoped she pulled it from something other than her hole. She tossed it on the bar. It didn’t look like shake. Looked like small buds. Very small. Very wizened and dry. He scooped it up as she scooped up his money. “Goodbye,” she said in a monotone.

Lucas nodded. Walked away fast, knowing that this was the most dangerous of times. Now people knew he had something. Something they wanted. Everyone seemed to want something. Especially that something that would get them the fuck out of life, any way they could.

He was heading to the door when the bartender, Crow, waved him over from behind the bar. Lucas always figured that Crow got his name because the fucker possessed black hair, black eyes, and black painted nails on his fat, sausage fingers. Crow led him away to the far end of the bar, out of ear-shot.

“Someone lookin’ for you,” the bartender said as he wiped down the bar.
I asked myself many times if I truly felt that page 69 of Innocent Damage was indicative of the rest of the novel. In the end, no matter how many times I asked myself the question, the answer always seemed to come back that, yes, it was.

The page shows the grit and tragedy of the world that the protagonist, Mark Mallen, inhabits. This world is not a pretty world, not at all. It’s a world filled with drug dealers and drug users, making the same deals they made the week before and will make again next week. This page also turned out to be a good one for another reason: it has a fairly important plot development right at the final line.

So yes, I hope the reader would want to read on once they got to this page.

A little backstory: This is an exchange between a loser named Lucas and one of his dealers, Viv. He hates her, but needs her. Sorta what like love can be, right?
Visit Robert K. Lewis's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Orhan's Inheritance"

Aline Ohanesian was born in Kuwait and immigrated to So. Cal at the age of three. After getting her MA in History, she abandoned her PhD studies when she realized her heart belonged to the novel. Her writing was a finalist for the PEN Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction and the Glimmer Train Best New Writers Award.

Ohanesian applied the Page 69 Test to Orhan's Inheritance, her first novel, and reported the following:
This scene takes place in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Kemal is a young artist whose got his head in the clouds. When the local Imam catches him drawing, which is considered a sin in their religion, his father punishes him. He says, among other things, "There is no poetry here. Only survival." I've given a lot of thought to the perceived tension between practical things and creative or spiritual pursuits. Though this isn't one of the main themes in the book, I'm always fascinated when people in the harshest conditions, people who are suffering from hunger and disease, engage in the most poetic and creative pursuits.
Visit Aline Ohanesian's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Black River"

S. M. Hulse received her MFA from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. A horsewoman and fiddler, she has spent time in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

Hulse applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Black River, and reported the following:
Twenty years ago, corrections officer and fiddler Wes Carver was held hostage during a prison riot that left him physically and emotionally shattered. Now, sixty years old and a recent widower, Wes returns to Black River, the remote Montana town that is home to the state penitentiary and the men who guard its inmates. There, Wes must contend with Dennis, his volatile stepson; Scott, a promising young musician whose anger toward his incarcerated father threatens to consume him; and Bobby Williams, his former captor whose supposed religious conversion forces Wes to face his own struggles with faith.

Page 69 appears during one of four chapters in Black River told from the point of view of Wes’s wife, Claire. Though she dies at the beginning of the novel, her voice returns throughout the book, often to recall past events. In this scene, she watches as her husband tries—and fails—to play his beloved fiddle for the first time after having his hands seriously injured during the prison riot:
Wesley, she says.

He ignores her. His eyes are on his strings now, his bow, his fingers that won’t obey.


The bow sawing desperately, the motion hardly intentional anymore, nearly a seizure. A sound to set your teeth on edge.

Wesley, please.

He makes an awful sort of pained sound deep in his throat, and Claire reaches forward and curls her hand over the scroll of his fiddle and pulls it down, away, and finally he relinquishes its weight to her and quits. Half drops and half throws his bow to the floor. It clatters dully on the hardwood, a blunt coda to his ruined song.
While this scene takes place two decades before most of the events in the novel, it gets right to the heart of Wes’s struggles. His music meant the world to him: it helped him reconnect with his humanity after a day working inside the prison; it brought him together with his wife; it even helped him move toward faith in God. When he lost his ability to play, his entire world became bleaker and less certain, and the full impact of that loss comes to a head twenty years later in the pages of Black River.
Visit S. M. Hulse's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2015

"A Hope Remembered"

Stacy Henrie has always had an avid appetite for history, fiction and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations from Brigham Young University and worked in communications before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances.

Henrie applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, A Hope Remembered, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Colin moved into the hallway, intent on waiting out front, but he stopped when he caught sight of Nora’s unfettered hair. Free from its pins, it fell in red waves to the middle of her back. He stared, mesmerized, at the beauty of it. Would those tresses feel as soft and silky as they looked, slipping through his fingers?

As Nora began to rearrange her hair into a knot, Colin realized she could turn at any moment and discover him gawking. He beat a hasty and rather silent retreat to the front door.
Colin Ashby, in A Hope Remembered, is caught between doing what will honor his dead brother’s wishes and his father’s demands, and what his heart wants to do. He’s supposed to be charming Nora Lewis, the pretty American who’s inherited the nearby sheep farm, to get her land. But from their first meeting, he realizes this task might prove to be his downfall.

On page 69, he’s offered to show Nora around the village in England’s Lake District, in hopes of convincing her that she doesn’t want to stay there. But then, in a chance moment of seeing her with her hair down, he’s reminded again that what his father wants and what Colin wants are fast becoming two different things.
Visit Stacy Henrie's website.

My Book, The Movie: Hope Rising.

The Page 69 Test: Hope Rising.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"A Reunion of Ghosts"

Judith Claire Mitchell is the author of the novels The Last Day of the War and A Reunion of Ghosts. She teaches undergraduate and graduate fiction workshops at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is a professor of English and the director of the MFA program in creative writing. She has received grants and fellowships from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and Bread Loaf, among others. She lives in Madison with her husband, the artist Don Friedlich, and Josie the West Highland White Terrier.

Mitchell applied the Page 69 Test to A Reunion of Ghosts and reported the following:
Page 69 of A Reunion of Ghosts may very well be the most representative page of the entire novel. To understand why, you first have to know the basic set-up. Basically, it’s the summer of 1999, and Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter, three middle-aged sisters who share an apartment in New York City, are busily writing their joint suicide note. Turns out they come from a long line of depressed, alcoholic suicides, and they feel their own time has come. Before they go, however, they want to explain why they’re going. This includes telling their own stories as well as the stories of the three generations before theirs.

Their story is actually a serious one. Their lives and the lives of their ancestors intersect with many seminal events of the twentieth century, from world war to the first uses of poison gases to the evils of nationalism to the Jewish diaspora of the 1940s, right on through to random gun violence and AIDS and global warming. But the sisters themselves share a dark sense of humor, so the story they tell is cloaked in humor. And one form of humor that the sisters cannot resist is the one often called the lowest form of humor: puns.

Which brings us to page 69. Page 69 comes at a point when the sisters are explaining their father’s desertion. They know very little about this man other than the fact that he sold clothing fasteners—buttons, hooks, that sort of thing—and that he disappeared one day. They do know one other thing, though: their father was the person who first introduced them to the art of punning. And so, on page 69 (and continuing on to page 70), the sisters indulge in the biggest pun-fest in the entire book. They make a series of groan-inducing puns about their father and his job and his name and their own names. They even make puns about their predilection for puns.

Then, when they’re done, they return to telling the story of three little girls abandoned by a father, left to be raised by a mentally unstable mother.

Page 69, then, is representative of the novel’s approach to narrative. It also encapsulates its main characters’ shared view of life. A lot of sorrow, a lot of grief, and yet, with some in-your-face wisecracking and some familial love, the three Alter sisters find a way to go on with their stories.
Visit Judith Claire Mitchell's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Judith Claire Mitchell & Josie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction.

Kang's novels include Control and the recently released Catalyst.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Catalyst and reported the following:
From page 69:
I drive another few hours but stop frequently to check on Caliga, who sleeps most of the time and barely moves. When I move her limp arm to feel her pulse, I notice how fairy-like her hands are. The nails are symmetrical ovals on slender fingers. She has the hands of an innocent girl. I wonder if hands can lie.

I must be getting lonely and desperate, because I start talking to her and asking ridiculous questions. Things like, “Tell me what Cy used to eat for breakfast,” or “Did you kiss both of Wilbert’s heads, or just the one with lips?’ She never answers me.
This passage is really special to me. One of the things I explored in both Control and Catalyst is our perception of people, the notion of good and evil, and how every perspective changes if you can just step into the shoes of another person.

In this scene, Zelia is an outside observer, still with her own preconceived opinions and emotions as they pertain to Caliga, who has done destructive, horrible things in Control. But Zelia begins to see her with more humanity in this scene. Even the one-sided banter shows both Zelia’s treatment of Caliga like she’s this inanimate thing, but also as a keeper of information Zelia craves to understand. It also shows her terrible loneliness and isolation, which I think is the sadness beneath the bit of humor in the second paragraph.
Learn more about the book and author at Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

--Marshal Zeringue